Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense), a non-native invasive plant species
Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense), a non-native invasive plant species
NPS Photo

Overall Rating

Add your review
Grade Level:
Ninth Grade-Twelfth Grade
Biology: Plants, Environment
2 class periods: 1 on trail, 1 in classroom
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
Intro to Bio: 3b, 3d
Biology 1: 3c
Environmental Science: 2c, 2d, 2e, 2f, 3a,b,c
invasive, non-native, diversity, Bio-diversity, population, community, competition, exotic plants, plants, botany, national scenic trail, plant diversity


On a National Scenic Trail, students will investigate how privet, a non-native plant species, out-competes and affects native plant species diversity. They will inventory the plants along the trail.


Enduring Understanding: Invasive species can out-compete native species and affect plant species diversity.

Essential Question: What are the effects of invasive non-native plants?

The students will:

1) Learn how population dynamics are affected by the introduction of a non-native plant species

2) Develop observation skills

3) Use prediction and inference to develop conclusions.


Invasive non-native plants are spreading across our country. Without the natural checks that exist in their indigenous areas, they often spread and out-compete native plants, reducing diversity and sometimes creating a virtual monoculture. In the southeast, one of the most invasive and difficult to control non-native plants is privet. See the attached USDA handout for more information.

What is an invasive plant? According to the Alabama Invasive Plant Council (AIPC) an invasive plant species is one that displays rapid growth and spread, establishes over large areas, and persists. Invasiveness is characterized by robust vegetative growth, high reproductive rate, and longevity. Even some native plants can become invasive under the right conditions.


1.) Discussion Stimulators

2.) Example of Plant Data

3.) Results Worksheet

4.) Privet Sheet

5.) Conclusions Worksheet

6.) Data Collection Sheet

7.) 4 plot corner markers for each group

8.) Labeled toothpick markers (about 26 with extra blanks)

9.) Meter stick or meter-long piece of string

10.) Appropriate Scenic Trail Map


Student Task: See study procedure.

Student Instruction: The students will need to be able to identify Chinese privet plants. An example should be brought into the classroom as well as handing out the USDA brochure to each student.

The students will be comparing three plots along a National Scenic Trail. The first plot will be a "no privet plot". The second will be a "privet plot" and the third will be a plot between the privet and no privet plots. They will be counting the number of different plant species within each plot. They may also count the population of each species in each plot but that is not necessary. They need only recognize one plant species by sight, Chinese Privet. If students are good at plant identification, then the plant number in each plot could represent the same plant, but that is not necessary. Another option is to have the students subjectively label the plants, Rare, Common or Abundant. See the example for how they might list plants.

Teacher Closure: Explain to the students that Chinese privet is only one kind of invasive non-native plant. Plants are imported into different areas in many different ways. Modes of introduction may range from seeds stuck on shipping boxes from other continents to seeds stuck to a bumper traveling from Canada to Mexico. In the right (wrong) place, without competition, a non-native species may take over.

The students may be interested in engaging in a class debate about what should be considered non-native and what should be done about non-natives. See the Discussion Stimulator sheet.


Participation in the activities, accuracy and completion of data sheets and report.

Park Connections

Non-native species affect plant species diversity all along the Natchez Trace Parkway.


1.) Relate this study to other topics when lessons include subjects such a species distribution, competition and populations.

2.) The students could research other non-native plants and develop reports or displays.

3.) The students might investigate the "Saltcedar Study" in the American Southwest.

Additional Resources

The students might investigate the "Saltcedar Study" in the American Southwest.


Invasive, non-native, diversity, population, community, competition